Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160-179)



  160. So the last thing we should conclude from these figures is that there has been a tripling of instances and it merely is the referrals to you?
  (Ms Lyner) That is all we could evidence, yes.

  161. Have you, to any extent, categorised the degree or nature of why people have approached you or been referred to you?
  (Ms Lyner) In some of the statistics there on page four, we look at the source of the threats. That breaks down as something that has changed. In the earlier years it was 60 per cent Nationalist Republican and it is now moving towards 60 per cent Loyalist. On the back page of the hand-out, it is not actually on the overhead, we give some view of what people give us as the alleged reason for the threat which they face. That is on page eight. There is a table behind it which is helpful. You can see that the biggest group there will be for antisocial behaviour. Next to that we will be looking at drug related activities. The next highest area, interestingly, is internal feuding and disputing, or discipline. Those are the alleged reasons that people present us with in terms of being under threat. Obviously just in terms of a relationship between the ages of people who present to us and the types of activities that they may be presenting as their alleged offences, the younger the age the more likely it is to be the antisocial behaviour area and as they get older it is more likely you are talking about Schedule 1 sex offenders, internal feuding or other issues of that nature. There is some correlation between the types of reasons why they present and the age.

  162. Do you think the signing of the Belfast Agreement has had any impact on the number of referrals?
  (Mr Conway) We would not have a view in terms of what caused what. We think there are a variety of reasons. All we can talk about are the number of cases referred to Base 2, but there are other organisations and people who go to other potential sources of help, so we would not have a view on that.

  163. Changing theme to the issue of reintegration into the community, can you tell us a little about how you set about bringing this about?
  (Ms Lyner) Reintegration?

  164. Yes.
  (Ms Lyner) There is a statistic somewhere that looks to see how small an element of work that actually is. On page six, client outcome, the top table, which talks about re-entry, you can see in relation to the numbers moving out that would be relatively small. With effect from 1 April this year we have received a contract through the Belfast Regeneration Office, that was Making Belfast Work, to attempt to establish policies and procedures and practices that will enable individuals who want to return to come back safely. I think we need to understand what that is in terms of the overall statistics. If we are talking about somewhere in the region of 600 cases coming through in an average year, we would reckon that about 40 of those would be individuals who would come to England. Over the years some of those may have returned. There is a sizeable number over a period of ten years. Some of the difficulties in relation to that are that there is not a point of contact necessarily here for them to start their process of re-entry. Obviously the focus of resources has been when they were under threat and we were able to put together packages, along with major statutory organisations and voluntary organisations we work with, to move them out of Northern Ireland. There is not the same focus of attention for them to re-enter, they would now have to make contact with us in Northern Ireland. That may be something in terms of your recommendations that needs to be examined. It is not just a matter of financial routing of individuals, there are a range of other things that need to be considered in terms of re-entry. It may have been that in the process of however they came to be under a threat there were victims who existed in their community and there needs to be a level of consultation with the community at large and victims in particular as to how we, or others, would mediate the return of particular individuals. It is not just a financial or removal question.

  165. So this does involve almost brokering a deal between the individual and the paramilitary group?
  (Ms Lyner) No, I think you misunderstood what I said in terms of if there had been victims in the community. If there has been a burglary or whatever else and there has been a victim within the community, account has to be taken of the victim's feelings in that situation as well as the individual's need to return, so there is need for mediation in that sense.

  166. Your experience so far has not involved coming to an agreement with paramilitaries?
  (Ms Lyner) No.
  (Mr Conway) We have no direct contact with paramilitaries. We have people who have connections who would give us an indication about what would happen if somebody did come back, if somebody was just to step on a boat or a plane. As Olwen has said, in the ten years that Base 2 has existed any information that we have received by proxy has been 100 per cent, nobody has been set up, nobody has been informed "it is okay for you to come back" and then subsequently action has been taken against them.

  167. Yes.
  (Mr Conway) That is Base 2's experience.

  168. I am just wondering, leaving aside the paramilitary side, if you could give us one quick example of the sort of agreement that you have reached with the community to enable someone to re-enter?
  (Mr Conway) We would have to have an indication that it was safe for them to return.

  169. And you would simply negotiate on that and discuss on that?
  (Mr Conway) You call it negotiation, we would relay that information back to the potential victim.


  170. Before I call Mr Grogan, there was a moment when Mr Hunter started his questions when we were dealing with a mild problem with the topography of the room occasioned by the technology and, consequently, I was not listening as closely as I should have done to the exchanges. If I can just go back to page three of the written briefing that you have given. You may want to put it on the screen. It is the bottom half of page three, the number of referrals. Can I just clarify whether the column pre-1994 represents an average annual figure of 200 or whether it is a cumulative figure between 1990 and 1994?
  (Mr Conway) It is per annum.

  171. I think that is actually quite helpful.
  (Ms Lyner) Can I just make one point.

  172. It was not totally clear.
  (Ms Lyner) We were mindful in coming today that one of the issues that concerned you was to get some idea of the size of the situation.

  173. It is extremely helpful.
  (Ms Lyner) We have been fortunate enough to secure resources very recently for qualitative evaluation of our stats and our work. I am sure that all the figures are not just perfect in their alignment or in their boxes at the moment but when that is available, which it should be early in the new year, you are very welcome to a copy of that. I would not want us to be overly concerned because at this stage it is just to give you an overall view of the shape and frame of the work rather than to be absolutely accurate on every single item. [3]

  Chairman: I am glad I asked the question because it has elicited further information.

Mr Grogan

  174. Good afternoon. Just following on the previous line of questioning about mediation and so on, in the 1999 Annual Report it indicated that demand for mediation was going up quite considerably. Is that because of the success? To what would you attribute that increase in demand?
  (Ms Lyner) I imagine that it is to do with the fact that people are actually wishing to return to their locations and the view that there is a more settled and stable situation in the communities where they came from. As a consequence they are asking us to be involved in the process of mediation. To go back to a point that was raised earlier in terms of what type of mediation might be appropriate. Imagining somebody whose offences in the past were drink related, and that had been an ongoing issue for the community in which they were placed, or the issues might well be in terms of the street's or the community's acceptance of that individual, if it was known that they were involved with probation on an alcohol management course, that might be something to evidence a potential change in behaviour that might make them fit within the community again.

  175. So it is a process of give and take then, it is not just someone asking whether it is safe for them to come back to the community and you, through contacts, communicating an answer. The contacts may make demands of the individual?
  (Ms Lyner) This is in terms of recognising that there may well have been a victim in this situation who may still have issues about whoever it was who was their neighbour before returning to their area.

  176. Do you worry at all that there is a danger of legitimising the process of intimidation and so on by acting as a conduit, that in some way you are legitimising those demands which are often just allegations?
  (Ms Lyner) There are two parts to that. Where we are talking about an alleged threat, we are attempting to check out whether that threat exists. Again, from our stats you will see that in about one in six of those who have come forward alleging they are under some level of intimidation we cannot evidence that is the case, so we have been clear with those individuals. In terms of legitimising the process, NIACRO has stood since the day and hour it was ever involved in this programme to say that it does not condone what is happening by way of this process, surely there must be a better way. We do not believe that the better way is to sit there and allow people to be brutalised, and worse, through this process. It is not an area of work that we have been particularly public on over the years that we have been doing it, and for many years we have struggled in terms of putting the resourcing together, but we have always felt as a charity with humanitarian impulses that it was imperative that we were in a position to offer some opportunities to people who were potentially about to be brutalised. I absolutely refute that we are condoning the activities by saying within a humanitarian response that some action needs to be taken. Throughout the years since 1990, we have always stood alongside the full range of statutory and voluntary organisations who have some care or concern in this area. While at times in terms of finance it might have felt windy, in terms of practice there were always numbers of other organisations working and co-operating along with us.

  177. Have there been any occasions when your contacts have suggested to you that it might help solve a particular individual's case and allow them to come back to the community if a payment is made, or would that be completely out of the question?
  (Mr Conway) We have heard anecdotal stories that has happened but that has not been put to anybody in Base 2. In terms of the collusion suggestion, an example of, if you like, how we do not collude is if an individual comes along and says "we have 24 hours" or "we have been informed that we have 24 hours to leave the country". As I have said previously, we will try to slow that person down. We will not respond to the threat, if you like, of exclusion. If we do that then that person would be out of the country within 24 hours and we are very clear that is not in the person's interests.

  178. One final question. Is it possible to make any assessment of the costs of paramilitary exclusions? There are a large number of paramilitary exclusions, is it quantitatively possible to make any estimate of how much that might cost in dealing with that?
  (Mr Conway) One of the evaluations that we had carried out previously, probably about six years ago, by either Price Waterhouse or Coopers, and this is purely from memory, estimated that when you factored in the cost of surgery, say in relation to the potential victim, post-operative treatment, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, time off work, recuperation, possible compensation through a compensation agency, they arrived at a particular figure that was in five figures per case but each case is treated very, very individually. I can recall when I attempted to do a similar exercise and approached the Royal Victoria Hospital with a view to obtaining costs, at that time they were very protective and because they were in a competitive tendering situation with other hospitals they would not even give me ball park figures in relation to how much a stay in hospital for two to three weeks would actually cost. I know that exercise was carried out in another area.

  179. Would it be possible, Chairman, to ask that they could write with details about the Price Waterhouse study to us?
  (Mr Conway) Yes.

  Mr Grogan: Thank you very much indeed.

3   For updated figures, see Appendix 8, p 93. Back

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